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tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  September 2, 2014 11:20pm-12:47am EDT

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burning of washington, and he is in something of a state of shock. he had sent his family which included six children by then and his wife away up to the family home in maryland, but he's been quite fearful that georgetown will be attacked. a a few days later, it is from this home that he would launch the mission to try to gain 8p maryland who had been taken prisoner by the british, a and this would ultimately lead to his eyewitnessing of the bombardment of ft. mchenry and ultimately to thev f writing e national antent them.
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a big rainstorm hit the city that night after the% n÷ britisd gone back to their camp, and extinguishes some of the flames including at the treasury. and coburn, the next morning, he rides up to the white house pretty much for the$(a>e satisfn of seeing the burnt building and he also wanted to make sure that some of the parts of the building that hadt not been extinguished by the rain, and one party sent up to the navy yard, and coburn remarks that he is glad that the americansrñ$é÷d him the trouble of burning the place, but he sends some of his sailors and loyal marines there remaining buildings that had not been burned. another party comesvel down hero
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point, and this was the southern tip of the city at this point.2p the federal government had a large arsenal ofs;fcannons and hundreds of kegs of powder stored there. and the party royal marines gets to it, and they find the well sh, and they try to destroy it, and some of the cannons that had been left behind. and they are in the process of firing one cannon at another, and the breach of another gun in order to destroy it, and they are having some trouble. there's another storm that is starting to blow up. and the fuse from one of the
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attempts lands on the ground, and by the account of one of the royal marines involved in the episode, the wind picked up the fuse and blew it up, and blew it into the well where all of the powder had been dumped, and suddenly, there is an e enormous explosion with the flames and the debris andcfkz bodies going flying up into the air. absolutely shook the city. caused dozens of british witness accounts from the royal marine described bodies flown over the e trees and into the water, and this causes quite a bit of damage both to the british morale and also shakes up the city further. the marines bury some of the bodies here, and they march back
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to join the rest of the british force up on capitol hill, and + meantime, the storm that has been brewing up, becomes worse+ and worse. this in fact becomes one or more tornadoes that unbelievably enough run through town in the midst ofa5 catastrophe of the y being burned. you have a tremendously destructive storm that comes through the city, and some witness accounts describe them as approaching from the northwest and running through virginia and then into the capital and down into maryland into southern maryland. did some damage to both the city and some homes that had been spared by the british ended up losing their roof. the one federal building that british which is the patent office actually loses its roof to the storm. so there is one woman who is
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living here in washington at the time who is described, the storm hitting after the city had been burned is just as being almost like the vengeance of god delivered on washington. this is now ft. mcnair, the national defense university is head quartered here. it is still an important army.ñ installation, and this is also the spot where some of the conspirators in the lincoln assassination were hung. after the arsenal explosion and the storm that hits town on the 25th, the british made plans for pretty quick departure, and they never intended to stay for long. this is something that we have to remember is a very is small for est, and general ross was
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definitely concerned about the possibility of a counter attack, baltimo baltimore. and washington gave consideration of going from washington to baltimore, but ultimately the decision was made that admiral cochran wants them back at the fleet, and tha&lh5ee low on munitions. so on the night of august 21st, they covered the retreat by making some fires and ordering a curfew, but they left the city ship ships on the01opo s tos on the and they z31vlalqñreturned to f virtually every vestige of powez
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destroyed. one force gone and still another coming up the potomac river.+4"5 á"á$u$e p the potomac river.+4"5 attack on washington has happened, you have seen this attack coming up the potomac.8/y many in washington thought it would be impossible for the british warships to make it up the potomac, because further down the river from where with e re, there is an area of the kettle of bottoms which notorious shows that no ship carrying heavy guns could sail through, but gordon and his
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squadron and by hook and crook and by enormous labor were able to use kej anchors to pull:,u themselves are through the mud, and all of the ships end up going aground 20 times each, but they manage to pull themselves through with great seamanship and a lot of muscle.n9ótr(t&háh% but this does slow them down. they have gotten, and by the time they get through the kettle bottoms and they are 20 miles or so from washington on the night of august 24th, they see a red glow in the sky. it's washington burning. it is just a stunning sight even from that distance. the flames were such that the night was being lit up. now, in some ways, this is the disappointment, because gordon and the sailors were hoping to put the torches to theáyç city
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themselves, but, they really had a couple of different missions here. this squadron by coming up the potomac was going to be a safety valve for the army forces in washington. if the army came under counter attack, then having the royal px$gd c would relieve pressure on them, and perhaps they could carry out some of the army0w forces down the potomac if they were to get trapped at washington. beyond that, there were some important targets of still up river from where they stood. this primarily included the city of alexandria which was then, although in virginia n the state of virginia, it was then part of the land making up thepk&b dis of columbia and it was a very wealthy port on the potomac. and they also could pose a
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threat to other targets in threz hadn't been rgets in taken by the british army though point. georgetown had been left alone by the british, and there is an important foundry that makes weapons for the u.s. navy that is still sitting up touched. event, they are proceeding up river when they are hit by the huge storm. the remarkable storm that comes through washington on august 25th sweeps down river, and severe severely damages several of the ships in gordon's squadron and they have to stop to make repair repairs, and they almost consider turning back at this point, but they keep coming up river, ap they sail past mt. vernon which is down riverehv f here. finally on august 22nd, they
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which is the last fortress guarding thejmuq potomac river they are on the approach to alexandria in washington. this is the fort that george washington who lives across the river be built, because it is at this strategic point:mz that th confluence of the piscataway creek and the potomac river, but the fort that is built here in the early 1800s is not that impressive. in fact, one newspaper account describes it as little more than a pigpen, so it is basically earthworks and gun platforms up there on the high ground, but because of the channel coming to close to the shoreline here, those guns from that height
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would have enormous effect on any ship trying to sail by. it could have been a much stronger position if the u.s. government had done more to f t fortify it. recommendation had been made the prooef youts year that the fo fort -- the previous year that the fort be rebuilt into a stronger and more effective position, and ita1)ñ had not be done. but even so, it is an obstacle that the british officers estimated would have probably cost them at least 50 men tokúy the take. it would have caused quite a bit of damage to some of the valuable british ships if there and the british gordon and his men wereébc expecting to have real fight on their hands to get
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they'd just lobbed the first of their shells towards the fort on the evening of august 27th when gordon watching from the deck of his ship seahorse could see what looked like the garrison retreating from the fort, and then there is a terrific explosion, and the entire fort just goes sky high. gordon and his men are not quite sure what has happened. they don't know whether one of the shells has been a luckb ki shot that hit the fort's magazine and the whole thing is going up, or if the americans have destroyed the fort themselves. and it is not until the next morning on august 28th that they send a landing party on shore, amazement that this fort which is in position to do harm to the w the americansb:c themselves, and th
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american garrison had retreated. what had happened was captain samuel dyson, the commander of the garrison, he was a u.s. artillery officer, and he had been assigned, and he did not have a lot of confidence in the gar zn or the equipment that he had, and he had instructions from winder not to let the place fall into british hands. and he decided that based on the position that he could see that he had seen the smoke still rising over washington. he's got the royal navy squadron still approaching him, and he is thinking that he is perhaps going to be attacked by land and at the same time by british army troops, and he has decided to
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abb abandon the fort without a 3 he 3áe would soon be court-mard for that decision. an open path to alexandria as well to again, washington.eíiú we're right off of alexandria, virginia. about where the captain gordon positioned his royal navy squadron on august 29th, 1814, f fort washington is destroyed, and everybody in alexandria knew that there was no way the defend the city now, and they had been left completely defenseless by t
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the federal government. and alexander's militia had been taken by general winder, and positioned off of fort washington for a while, and now that washington had been burned, they were marched away, and so that the city's fathers had essentially no defenses. most of the weapons in town, and the cannons save for a couple had been taken away as well. and so the mayor and others had gone to madison the previous year, and said, you know, we don't have any defenses if the british make it past the kettle bottoms and fort washington, and then we are defenseless, and madison had pretty much said, well sh well, we can't defend every turn of patch. so that the city had been pretty much left on its own. the city didn't hesitate in want ing to quickly surrender to captain gordon, and in fact, they wrorode out a delegation t
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day before, and said, wait until i position myself off of alexandria and then you can surrend surrender, and so by the 29th of august, he had positioned off of the wharfs here in alexandria, h his bomb ships, and including the ship's devastation meteor and aetna, and these ships were capable of setting the city afire pretty much within five or directed shells, and allp= scity of beautiful old brick stru structures, and this is more or less george washington's hometown the, and he had worshipped here. this city at one point had been one of the largest ports of america, and it was beyond that
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heyday now shgsdáçudq$eh, and s city with the warehouses stocked with goods, tobacco, flour, cotton and the scity essentiall, the morning of august 29th, offered this surrender, and this time captain gordon took it, but he offered pretty harsh terms, surrender all valuable material materials that were in the warehouses were going to be turned over to the british and all
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hesitate to accept them, and as word of this spreads, you know, washington, this great outrage that the city has surrendered, so easily, because there was some thought thatrñ alexander should have put up a defense before surrendering like this, but i think that one of the reasons that you still have many beautiful old colonial brick homes in alexandria is because they decidedljíñ it would be without any real means to protect the city against the g-háhe british with the bomb ships anchored out here ready to fire, they anchored up at the foot of king street. right across from us here where a lot of the warehouses were situated and over the course of
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the next four days, it took that long to basically empty all of the warehouses and raise the ships that had been sunk, and the british purported themselves quite well and the major of a x alexandria was quite delighted that any time any sort of hint of resistance was offered, he quickly tried to squelch it. at one point captain david porter of the u.s. navy came to scout out the situation. he was situated up on suitor's hill at the high point overlooking the city, and he and another navy officer came down trying to gather some intelligence, and they tried to essentially kidnap a young "?ñ get some information. and they ran down and they came down on the horseback and gr
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grabbed him, and tried to pull him away, but the lad managed to escape. at that point alexander was almost put into flames, all of the warships out here raised their flags and got ready to fi fire. but mayor sims was able to persuade captain gordon that no offense had been meant by the city. so the british continued to empty the city. in fact, they were not able to fit everything on board even with the 21 captive ships that they were taking away as prizes of war, they didn't have room to fit everything. so they had to leave some stuff back here on the docks to their dismay. but, by september 1st, the british were ready to leave, and at this pointp captain gordon has received word that the americans are trying to set up an ambush for him.
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and in fact, david porter and oliver hazard perry, another well known navy officer, had set up down river?:3r where captain perry e" head, and when the ships came by with bounty, they would be pummelled with fire. and also, captain john rodgers, the most senior officer in the navy, working out of the navy yard in washington is coming down river with some fireboat, and these are boats laden with flammable materiel, and they are going to set the ships on fire. and so admiral gordon decidesmet
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is time to sail. and one of the ships goes aground wheretdé the wilson br sits today. captain rodgers tried to set it after fire with one of the fi firebo fireboats, but the british managed to fend it off. as the british made their way down past fort washington, they run into captain porter's2nf and for five days they exchanged fire and it is serious back and forth on the casualties on both side sides. eventually the wind changes and allows gordon the blast his way past the american position.
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and blast his way past perry as well who runs out of ammunition quite quickly. and the squadron is delayed getting down river, and this is ultimately going to delay the attack on baltimore which has consequen consequences for the british. so when madison after three days as a refugee comes back to washington, he immediately realizes the importance of not surround i surrounding -- surrendering the city again, and he fights off efforts to move the capital away, and he directs that congress, he insists that and that the news of this, he realized, needed to get on the same ships that were going to be carrying the news of washington's4gz capture back to
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europe, and in the same newspapers that would carry the news of washington's capture around the country. so, he wants to send out a message as quickly as possible st despite the british capture had not surrendered and the government would stay in washington, and the united states was going to fight on. ñ the fight to get the capital restore d and rebuilt. there is a big debate this congress, and the vote for rebuilding washington as the capital is very close. but it passes ultimately. one of the d,8am is that the british actually by& óo leaving federalfh4 building untouched i washington left a place for congress to reconvene while the city is restored. the decision to restore
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washington is made early in 1815, almost simultaneously news comes of two greath one is the american victory at defeat defeats the same british force that has attacked washington and baltimore and continues down to new orleans. and then word comes from europe that a treaty has been signed between american e negotiators and the british negotiators iny ghent, and the war still continues though until madison and congress agree to ratify the treaty which happens quickly, but the combination of all of the events, the victory at new orleans, word of peace, the great sense of unity that emerges from the victory at baltimore allows madison and the
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country to escape from the war with a sense of victory. this war tends to be overlooked and this moment in history tends to be forgotten. i think that it is important for people to understand what a precarious moment this was in american history, and how close the united states came to disaster, and this period right after the burning of washington. it was certainly quite possible that the united states would have ceased to exist certainly as we know it today. and to me, anybody who listens to the star spangled banner or sings it, you know, they have to understand that this first verse that we all sing it at baseball games, and you are listening to it during the super bowl, you always have to remember that verse ends in a with question
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mark, because key didn't really know what the future would hold for the united states at this moment. and anybody who was alive at this time u understood what with a turning point this was for the united states.understood what w a turning point this was for the united states.nderstood what wia turning point this was for the united states.élñ here's a great read to add to the reading list, c-span's "sundays at eight." it is a list of influential >> i always knew there was a risk of the bohemian and i decided to takeca=ñ it, because
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whether it is an illusion or not, and i don't think it is, it helped my concentration. it stopped me being bored. it stopped other people from being boring to some extent. it would keep me more awake. to go on longer, to put on more conversation and to enhance the moment. if i was asked if i would do itu again, the answer is probably yes, i would have quit earlier possibly hope togdl the whole thing. easy for me to say, and not nice for my children to hear, because it sounds irresponsible if i say, yes, i would do the whole lot of it again to you, but the thing is hypocritical, that i would never touch the stuff again, but i did know, and everyone did know. the soviet union and the european union did contain the seeds of its own destruck shurngs and the problems at the end we knew at the beginning. control all institution, and political life and the economy and the social life, and the
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pr problem is that when you do try to control everything, then you create opposition and potential dissidence everywhere. if you tell all artists to paint all of the same way23f6t, and y have one artist who says, no i don't want to paint that way, but another way, you have made him into a political dissident. if you want to solve housing in the country, and the populous agrees that we should subsidize it, then put it on the balance sheet, and make it clear and make it evident and make everybody aware of how much it is costing, but when you deliver it through the third-party enterprises fannie mae and freddie mac and deliver the subsidies of the public through private shareholders and of the subsidy for themselves, subsidizing home yoownership. >> christopher hit chens and ann apple balm, and get ten are some
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of the engaging stories that are now told in this book available at your book seller. at yfnq book seller. bladensburg, the british forces with were allowed the walk into washington and burn down the capital building. historians recently discussed sherm baker. this is an hour. to welcome everyone to this round table discussion of the war of are certainly happy to have you here in the bladensburg, maryland n the county of prince georges county. i'm the county executive of prince georges county, sherm baker, and i get to do somethinr i love to do whichph," is to ta about history and the role that the county and the state plays.ñ
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we want to welcome in the c-span audience who may be watching today on this 200th anniversary of the war of the, battle at bladensburg which is tomorrow, the 200 anniversary. as i said, i majored in history c howard university, and so this is going to be a very fun day for me, and i am looking forward to hearing from the panel of m8?ñexperts. normally, you will hear the elected officials talk a lot, and this is the most that you will hear me, and so we will get to those who are here who are x experts and enlighten us all. on the panel and i'm not sure if he is here yet, and i will introduce him so we don't have to resboe -- reintroduce him, and christopher george was born has a b.a. from loyola university in baltimore and mla from john hop kin cans university, and he is now a u.s.
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divided loyalty over the war of 1812. chris is the founding editor of the journal of the war of 1812, and the originator and koord coordinator of the national war of 1812 symposium series. articles and given lectures on the aspects of the conflict. his book "the terror on the chesapeake, the war of 1812" was published in 2001. and the baltimore sun said it is the best single volume treatment yet. and now chris along with john mckavt have a book coming out, "robert roth, the man who burned the white house and inspired the national anthem." and when chris gets here, we will have him come up to join s us. with us, we also have peter snow. glad to have peter here. he was born in dublin,qel and h is -- he did the national s
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service in the somerset light infantry which sounds really gallant. and then he went on to -- he will have to correct me on this the ballyhoo college at oxford classics and where i have my minor and then minor in philosophy, and he also joined the independent british television network where he served a as the diplomatic and defense correspondent and lj he e joined the bbc where he did political reporting along with a wide range of reporting. for example, he and his son dan presented programs on bbc2 on the battle of a la means, and eight british battles from -- >> '9g(p --
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>> i love thatqo=ç accent. and the world's 20th century battlefields. this is going to be so much fun. in 2010, peter's biography "to war with wellington" was published. his book "when britain burned the white house" was written wa post called it a fine example of literary and popular history. welcome, peter. >> we also have steve voc-- stee who i have had an opportunity to sit with a round table before,? and he is a vet van journalist, and graduate of william and received his master's degree from the university of public policy from john hopkins university, and international school of advanced study. steve recently wrote for the washington post, a local little paper. and about military affairs in and the treatment of veterans.
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his reporting of the war of afghanistan a was part of a package of the washington post selected as finalists for the 2002 pulitzer prize. he also covered the war in iraq y well as u.s. military operations in rwanda, somalia, and the balkans. steve's book which is very, very good, and i did read this one about the battle of bladensburg through the perilous fight was published last year. the washington post reviewed it and said that steve did a superb job of bringing this woeful tale to he h levined h -- levined the v with purposeful folly. and finally, ralph eslman who i had the privilege of hearingghq couple of days ago has over 35
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years ofmkc>m experience as the cultural management experience, specific to the war of 1812. he is the co-director of the pa tuxson river culturallw"6q surv and which in part partially excavated the american war3h+ o 1812 military vessel from the chesapeake flotilla. ralph conducted a survey of maryland's 1812 sites for the national park service of american battlefield, for the american battlefield protection program, and served as historian spangled banner and the trail's history, and he has personally visited and photographed almost e nearly every war of 1812 site
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in the chesapeake area, and he is considered the expert in this reference. and in the virginia magazine wrote that the,kjbç readers wil enjoy the clear text and the engaging style peppered with numerous firsthand accounts. and so now, to start us all, l ralph is going to start us off and talk abouty3ñn÷ bladensberg. can we give them all a round of applause, please. yes. thank you. >> well, is very good afternoon, everyone. it is wonderful to see a great turnout. this is standing room only, and so this is a great turnout, and thank you all for showing up. the big question is why bladensberg. why was there this big battle at bladensberg, and if you understand that when the british came up the chesapeake bay in
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1814, they then came up the p pentuxantõ river. a and you can see that it took them four days to march here so x,v are coming from the south to try to reach washington. bladensberg is to the northeast of washington, d.c. that means that the british had to go further than a direct southern route. now why would they do that? why would they come all of the way to the extra distance to bladensberg, and the answer is actually simple. the british knew that there were three bridges that were built across what we call the an cost ya river, and they underiag& that if the americans burned those bridges, it would be difficult for them to cross, and if they went to hd@bladensburg would be shall e low enough, and even if the americans did burn that bridge, which interestingly
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enough, the americans did not burn, they would still be able to get across, and so that is why the battle of bladensburgm[ took place. it was further, by it afforded them a better opportunity to not be inhibited by the burning of be inhibited by the burning of the questions. captioning performed by vitac captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2008 one, the battle did not really take place injlhñ bladensburg. the british occupied bladensburg. there was minor, minor resistance from maybe a couple of guys that fired a couple of guns. but other than that they came right into this town and took it without any defense whatsoever. so the real battle took the west, across the anacostia river. if we call it the battle for washington, which truly it was, i think everybody would have a clearer understanding of the significance of this battle. so that's just kind of my opening remarks.
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>> peter. >> i thinkj)1 one of the great things is the way you discuss so uninhibited the subject, in frankness one of the most embarrassing moments in american history. [ laughter ] we're dreading in britain, next year we are dreading the moment when we celebrate or commemorate the battle of waterloo, june of 1815 which over shadows the war of 1812, the reason why we don't know anything about war of 1812 because we were fighting napoleon at that time which was much more serious than the americans. the battle of waterloo, victory in 1815, nine months from now was far more important to us. but we greatly dread the moment when the battle of waterloo is commemorated because the brit are not likely to turn up and not likely to come along to
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things like this and chat awayy and say things like this. not much carrying on. here we are discussing this extraordinary battle of bladensburg. now, let me say this. i think one of the)czd reasons, you'll start shouting at me, you're so happy to discuss the battle of bladensburg you feel it led on to extra reports of triumph, victory of the americans in baltimore. i, again, just want to stir you up, i don't think -- i don't think baltimore can be described as a victory. i think it's an outrageous thing to say. i'm sorry but it's a factual term that the battle of baltimore, the siege, the lifting of the siege of baltimore was a huge victory for americans. certainly a rebuff, a reverse for the british but american victory is nonsense. it was a british victory with great respect of northpointe only a couple of days before
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they pulled out of the whole baltimore operation, the americans were. made to withdraw. a much smaller number of americans than british. the british commander had a bigger army than the baltimore general who was in charge of the americans and pushed them back. that was a british victory there. but what happened after that is the british decided it wasn't worth a candle. they were facing overwhelming odds and said guys we're not going to go on and of course they failedk÷ to reduce fort mchenry. which americans consider it a big success but a victory no mistake. going back to bladensburg, three problems the brits had at bladensburg. they approached bladensburg in an apprehensive way. they were worried about the battle of bladensburg. 50 miles from the ship,
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approaching the capital of america. a large army on the west bank of the eastern potomac, the anacostia. he had to face the three big problems. one was heat. now you have no idea -- but you have an idea, like britain today. the heat was unbelievable. guys in their red woollen opportuwoollentunics were falling down because of the heat. bridge which they started crossing -- my understanding they went across the bridge and then started to get used to the idea of the forge. anacostia was there. so they had to face this extremely impressive canon fire from the american artillery on the front line which did severe damage. that was a big, big problem.
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and the third problem, of course, was the problem of the guy on that monument, joshua barely. one cannot detract, whatever one says things about the battle of bladensburg one cannot detract from the fact that joshua barney facing the entire victorious british army which run right through the first two american lines faced this quite small force who held them up and took severe british casualties with them for an hour or two they battled. barney was a serious problem for the brits. ross himself. so there we are. three huge problems. i'm sorry to say it was an marine disaster. >> thank you. steve? >> see what i can do. peter did make this claim about baltimore being a defeat last
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night and my response to him was fairly simple, scoreboard. [ laughter ] >> true. >> and the point was, the important point is that the british did withdraw and the attack was turned away. as for bladensburg, that cannot be described as an american victory bysd#'w any means. but, i will say i'm very glad we're doing this today and there's been a dedication of the monument this morning because i think we sometimes tend to make all these jokes about bladensburg, it's known as the bladensburg races, and we laugh and joke about the soldiers who fought here and, you know, how fast they wereh'j and all that. primarily citizen soldiers. they were militia. they were not particularly well trained. they were not well equipped. certainly not well led. yet they showed up.
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they were here. i sometimes wonder how many of us today would show up if an invading army was moving towards capital and i think we need to give them credit for that. and honor their bravery. the other point i want to make here at the start is that bladensburg is also a story of missed opportunities because despite the fact that the americans were going against a very veteran troops well led by general ross with the able admiral coburn at his side, there were opportunities for the americans to turn this attack back before bladensburg, certainly. we missed opportunities where even a modest attack on the british advance could have turned the british back, ross was rightfully quite nervous advancing with this pretty small british force with very little artillery away from the ships. he was under strict instructions from london not to do anything
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that would risk his force. there was certainly risk involved in coming to washington. and even as late as really the 24th, when very belatedly the american commanders including general winder realized the british attack would be coming through bladensburg, even though as ralph mentioned really ultimately it was pretty clear the british would have to come to bladensburg to get to washington because the more southern approach is certainly they couldn't have been able to cross] river down there because the bridges had been blown they wouldn't be able to get across the river, much wider there than here at bladensburg. if our forces had been placed a little bit earlier, a little bit more wisely, and without so much chaos at the last minute, i think that british force could have been turned back. bladensburg, we have to think
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about some of the missed opportunities but also honor the sacrifice that was made here. thank you. >> mr. george, welcome. and we're starting off talking about why the battle of bladensburg? >> okay. well, one of the things that i one of the things that the americans have and the british didn't have was calvary to know what was happening up ahead. and the battle of bladensburg, the americans, directly led to general ross was mortally wounded again because he didn't have calvary to know what was happening a few miles up the road. when general stricker heard down at the peninsula and it was
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because of key, the word "key," of course, means something else. but because of key officers of the 85th regiment that led the advance into bladensburg namely major george brown who was wounded with a musket ball through the pelvis, very painful. colonel tom thornton who led the 85th across the bridge. and also major wood, all these key officers were wounded here and left bladensburg and so they were not available to lead the advance at baltimore. so the disaster that happens to the british at baltimore was because of what happened here at bladensburg. so bladensburg and the burning of washington was definitely a disaster and something that should not have happened and i
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disagree with what is said that washington was burned because of the burning of york and we could talk about that a little bit more. that's always been said, that's been said for 200 years but there's absolutely nothing in the british correspondence to say we went to washington because we wanted revenge for the burning of york. in fact, the british admiral and chief, vice admiral sir alexander cochran wrote to the new secretary of the army, acting secretary monroe a week later and he mentioned the number of places where the americans had burned up in canada, including niagara on the lake and choi i know we have an official here from niagara on the lake. but he never mentioned york. they weren't thinking about
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york. general ross may not have had much knowledge about fact that government buildings of york were burned in april 1813. >> let me start off a question and actually, it's a very -- it's a very good question and maybe to start off with the rest of the panel on why exactly did the british burn the capitol and if it was not in response to york, why did that happen? that question and we'll take questions from the audience. >> i don't mind starting off on that one. we hear over and over that the british burned washington, d.c. and that's not really correct. if you read good scholarly books they will point out the you the british burnt select public buildings. their intent was not to come in and totally destroy the stiff washington. they showed restraint.
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we need to recognize that. every time we say the britishhz% burnt washington we're makes it even more interesting when you consider that before the british even got to the capital, which was the first building that they burned, when i say capitol, i mean what the an "o" not anbtñ "a." the u.s. navy had already begun to burn the navy yard and the two other bridges south of bladensburg were on fire. around 8:20 on the evening of august 24th the bridges were first burnt and then the navy yard. as the british are coming in to washington, d.c. they are already seeing fire. it's not fire from them. it's fire from the united states military. it's trying to keep potential military targets out of the hand of this invading army. so i would just urge everyone to please keep in mind that the british truly did not burn the city of washington.
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i did an analysis, and at best it might be 4.8% of the city was burnt by the british. >> i mean, for heaven's sake, massive headline in this story is that the british went into washington, burnt the navy yard and they burnt the white house. they burnt the white house. they burnt down congress. they burnt down the parliament, the shrine of democracy in the usa. why did they do that? that's key question you asked. straightforward and dead simple. the british army, the british people were fighting a war of survival against napoleon who occupied the whole of europe except britain and they had to make sure this guy was defeated, wiped off the map and the americans were trading with napoleon and the americans were getting in the way with our war with napoleon. napoleon was a threat to the entire civilized world.
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you as well. but to america as well in the long run although we told you louisiana wasn't quite useful i must admit. the british were appalled that the americans declared war on britain. britain act eed arrogantly and despicably. understandably the americans temper rise. america declared war on britain and invade canada, a massive mistake. tiny population was able to defend itself. madison's war on canada was a disaster like bladensburg as well. so that was -- thaty2"?÷ really infuriated the brits. when napoleon abdicated in april of 1814 the opportunity arose to
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give the americans what the british described as a good drubbing, instructions went to ross and coburn to give the americans a good drubbing because we wanted this war of 1812 to stop. nobody wanted to re-occupy america. this was nonsense. so they went to washington in order to burn it and what else could they do? they wiped out the american army at bladensburg. they went into washington. now it is possible and i think steve will argue this they would have accepted the contribution, money in exchange for not burning washington but there were no americans to discuss it anyway spoipt happened. in they went to washington. what did they do? they had to give the americans a good drubbing. that was the inconstruction from whitehall. they did. they burnt the white house. they burnt congress and the state department. and the naval labor yard but the americans quite wisely burnt the
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labor yard. it was something, this massive act of destruction which many ç one mp said what the bridgepots in washington whatr(úe the gods failed to do in rome. scan da allows to burn the shrine off2v but humiliated america and that's what they were trying to do to stop them from fighting this bogus war. >> very true. i think certainly no matter how well behaved the british troops were in their visit this cannot qualify as a goodwill visit on the part of the british government. [ laughter ] and i utterly dismiss the idea this was an act of revenge for york. i think we can all agree with that. the british quite simply what coburn had envisioned from the time he arrived in the chesapeake, in the spring ever 1813, and which ross certainly
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agreed with, was to decapitate the government of james madison. they thought that by so humiliating the president by proving that he could not even defend his own capital while he was trying to invade canada, this would so undercut support for the war and possibly for the collapse of the american government. this was not symbolic gesture by the british, they wanted this war to end on british terms. and they thoughtxjñ9l by essent forcing the collapse of madison's government, burning the white house and the capital, they could for the americans to sign a treaty that would bring an end to the war on british terms, which at times during this conflict -- in fact, the same day that we fight the battle here in bladensburg, the british delegates in kent what today is belgium is presenting the american delegation what are really demands.
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they include british control of the great lakes, navigation rights on the mississippi, and at that point they are making demand for a 250,000 square mile swath of territory in the old northwest, much of ohio, illinois, indiana that would become a permanent indian buffer state. these were terms that, frankly, so the british in coming to washington were trying to establish a weaker united states on the north american continent possibly force its disallusion. >> mr. george, while we give the last word on the fact that the british did not come here, the burning of the capital was not revenge on york, i'll say to the
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audience we'll go questions but if you can wait until the mic gets to you because we do have a tv audience. mr. george, you want closing thoughts on this? >> yeah. my contention is that the public buildings of washington need not have been burned,tm+u and that' directly shown by the fact that three days after the)héh briti left washington, d.c., alexandria surrendered to a british squadron and not a city building was burned. tobacco was taken. flour. other goods. so that was seen:.!-ñ as a disg a lot of the republicans criticized the torys of alexandria for what they did in giving up in such a disgraceful
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way. however, the main point is that washington -- the americans did not surrender the city, which might have happened in europe and might have been what general ross expected. they came in under a white flag, drums sounding for a parlay, to negotiate with the americans. but the american government itself and the city government under mayor blake had all left. mayor blake said he would not surrender the city and0tmv inst of being negotiations, a shot rang out owned by robert gallaton, one of the americans in kent and# that's still there not far from the capital and ross's horse was
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shot out from underneath him and several men of the regiment were killed. so this was seen as an act of treachery and we have an upcoming book on ross draw a parallel of what happened with beans being arrested. he's a city elder of upper marlboro and not to act in a hostile manner and nothing would happen to upper marlboro if the americans added with neutrality. a few days later a few british stragglers misbehaved and these guys were arrested. that was seen as a dishonorable act by general ross and that's
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why beans ended up in irons in the british flagship and why francis scott key went up to baltimore and wrote a certain song. there's a parallel between the reason for the burning of washington and what happened with dr. beans. >> thank you very much. let's go the audience. >> john mccavitt has something to say. can we get him in? >> let's go the question back here. >> i have a question. i mean the burning of washington wasn't the first city on the chesapeake that was burned by the british. >> correct. >> 1813 in may they burned ha havre de grace. >> you're correct. however coburn was not in charge of the forces that captured
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washington. general ross was. and he was a much more mild mannered and firm man and he was respecting private property, and the whole of washington could have been respected and not burned, again, if the city had surrendered. >> yes. i think it's important to note that actions like the burning of havre d empde grace were happen before any other actions in the canadian theater. >> but it should be pointed out that the british believed that havre de grace provoked an attack because as the british were up there conducting some raids, that town flew their flag in defiance and fired a canon shot at them. not one guy. there were a bunch of militia men up there. >> if i can for the audience because we have a short window
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of time. let the panelists answer the questions. and get in as many as we can. >> what i would say i think the federalist newspaper, americans did say even coburn did not burn private property. so coburn deserves a little good mark there as well. no? yes? >> i would agree completely. he was playing by tough rules. but ultimately, you know, in his mind he was being fair. he adhered to certain conduct. there were nowaá atrocities li what happened in hampton wasn't under coburn's command. but, yeah, certainly coburn -- coburn's actions in the chesapeake created great terror throughout this region. >> just bear in mind that all these people like coburn and cochran had friends being killed by the french and how to sands
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killed by the french and these americans for some reason were insisting on fighting a war against the country that was fighting the french. they were invading canada which is part of britain. what the hell were the americans complaining about. had to stop this war. we had to stop this war. >> i think you're going to bring on a lot of questions but before we go back to the audience i have a couple of myself. mr. mccavitt, do you want to add something? i know you have a book coming out. >> i am working with christopher george on a book. we argued about the battle of bladensburg the whole way. but anyway, we're all good friends and it's wonderful to have an opportunity to share some of our research with you. chris and i are very foreign minister of the belief washington would not have been burned if ransom had been paid.
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it was not unusual at that point. general ross benefitted by $fou and a half,000 dollars. as far as i know no public buildings in alexandria. so when captain gordon says stand and deliver, what was he going to do if the people of alexandria didn't deliver. to me he was going to flatten the town. he's operating under the same orders thatm;tsy general ross i operating on which is if they did not get that ransom they would take very, very severe action and in my view ross, very, very reluctantly until the very last minute did not want to burn even any public buildings. i would argue, we would argue very strongly he disobeyed his orders. he should have burnt washington. he got in trouble for not
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burning washington. admiral cochran was exceptionally greedy. not only did he hope to get a ransom for burning washington, humiliated if it surrendered. cochran petitioned for ransom in lieu of burning the public buildings. in other words, you know, the money we should have got from washington give it to us and the british government said no. >> thank you. question? right up here. >> i have a question for peter snow because i know you do a lof of tactical analysis of battlefields. we talked about america militia and that failure of the militia but is it more of a failure of the american command, you know, particularly looking at the final stages here where winder orders that withdrawal of the third line and without a rallying point and then we have barney continuing to hold an artillery against infantry is usually a massacre.
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so if we hadn't had that left flank breaking would this not necessarily have been such a defeat that it was? >> two things about that. first thing is in9g6u fairness winder, to be fair it was -- who turned up. and monday rethe future president of the u.s. who changed the deployment of the american troops, moving the baltimore regiment back from just behind the guns on the front line to 500 meters behind where they couldn't support them. range of a musket is not more than 50 or 70 r.-u)s. you can't do anything from 500 meters away. that was a disaster. it was committed by monroe. when monroe was the manager. he turned up on the battlefield. monroe did that. second thing i would say, we talked about militia. let's bear in mind to be fair to the american side, the british
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went across that bridge and fought their way through campaigns with the french in europe and had professional skill on both sides and the men who marched across that bridge seemed to be relieved, i have no idea what it must have looked like. if we were at the front of the line facing these red coats, tramping straight up at them and down you go bloke. come on. what do you do? you turn around and you scatter as the wonderful john pendleton kennedy said, patriotic american fought in the second line. he saw these guys coming and he said we made a find scamper of it. it must have been appallingly frightening. you got to be reasonable and
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fair to americans on this thing. >> you want to add something. >> yes, peter's important point about james monroeo@:yq who is secretary of state and he's inserted himself into the chain of command right as the battle is about to begin and he moves the 5th of maryland and some of the otherji/c regiments furthek so they couldn't support this front line. another important thing that people might want to know as they look=(> at this map is th the first two lines of defense were never informed that a third line was being formed behind them with joshua barney and the district militia. general winder, you know, fails to make that clear to teen commanders up front. there are no instructions as to where these people torre treat to. this is one of the reasons why the collapse of the initial lines up front was so catastrophic because if they had retreated in more orderly fashion they could have support
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the very strong line that barney had but instead they leaf in a pell mell fashion and whatever road takes them. this battle was not a foregone conclusion. >> let's take a question over here. >> i have something. >> yes. >> general winder made a fatal mistake because he told the guys near the bridge to retreat up the georgetown road, and much as we've discussed they could have fallen back to join with barney and the d.c. militia near present day fort lincoln and the british might not have won the battle. in fact u.s. army surge, in testimony to congress, they said this was the battle that the british should not have won because it was fought in 100 degrees heat and these woollen
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uniforms with 60 rounds of lead muskets, knapsacks, canteen and they were out of shape for being aboard ships for a couple of weeks if not months. there had been a better general like winfield scott71fv who wa in canada or maybe nathan townsend who was from the same family that townsend, maryland is named for, somebody capable like that, be a capable army leader leading the american army this need not be the bladensburg races. >> it's just worthyh÷ mentionin little bit about the bridge because you get this image when you talk about from what peter was about the british coming across this bridge. this bridge was meant for horsemen or people walking. it did not even accommodate a
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wagon, for example. only three men shoulder to shoulder could stand on the width of that bridge. the reason is because there was a fo a forde there. youuñ mentioned criticism i british newspapers of ross's conduct in washington. the previous december, in a snowstorm american forces, i must add aide by canadian traders had burned the town of niagara, niagara on atlantic. civilian homes and churches. then in july of 1814 they burn down another little village, civilian homes and so on. was there any comment, criticism or anything of that sort in maryland newspapers about that kind of conduct? >> the governmentdiluz did disa
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those actions. and there's no question, going back to york, again, i know york is different, but in york it seems the american soldiers ran amuck. just one thing. just burned things in those days. i mean we've grown up. it's very rude. you got to recognize that one of the things you did in those days is you burned the other guys' towns. you made it hurt. we bombed dresden in the war. we killed millions of people in germany. in those days, in the 19th-century you burnt their towns and that's what did you. there were all kinds of things that happened. that was dreadful. that's way you foughtf4bx wars those days. >> let's get to these questions
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from the gentleman standing up and then come over here. >> my question is this, how much of madison's tablet had an impact on the decision for the canada campaign andzcacc was th purpose the eradicate the british in north america, gain more land for the united states or a combination of both and if the canada campaign hadn't occurred what then would be the bladensburg battle or war of 1812? >> we can keep our answers short we'll try to get as many questions oppose. >> the main point is that this was the only way that the americans could really fight the british. the u.s. navy was pretty minisk krmc
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miniskcule at this point. that's why the secretary of army armstrong sent the best american troops up to canada. i personally feel manifest destiny shows that if the americans captured canada they would have kept inby but don hickey who is probably the top war of 1812 historian believes that they would only have kept it as a bargaining table to get concessions from the british. so that's a matter of debate. >> but i think it was madison's intent to get bargaining chip, so to speak, but there were many others like henry clay, theqnk hawk from kentucky who certainly was interested in keeping that territory.gêy one of those things that they assumed would be a quick conqueror of canadian territory and that didn't happen. so the whole point became moot.
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>> wonderful thing about the war of 1812 the americans didn't win it. one could argue they lost it. they declared it and didn't win it. they discovered that america should look west and that the northern stuff and atlantic ocean fighting these 600 british ships and stuff was nonsense. the great opportunity laid to the west. the great joy of 1812 it made america doing what it hug l.i.e. succeeded in doing in building prosperity and wonderment by looking west and buying the louisiana purchase. >> that began with the louisiana purchase 1803. it was already in vogue by the war of 1812. >> question is ultimately, this war of bladensburg. i just want to refer to that map, when you look at the river, there's a red line where the bridge is, when you cross the
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river and over in the bladensburg side there is a dotted line going up, it crosses the river with an arrow. i wish somebody there would speak to me, probably a paragraph associated with that arrow. now i live in camp casey. i don't know why we never talk about the warren camp casey, you talk about the war in bladensburg. this surely, the guns and the militia, the good spirit, the fighting spirit was in the militia over at cottage city. >> let's see if our -- >> i want somebody to say something about that arrow pointing across. >> the answer is that some historians and some accounts indicate that some of the british forded the river a2w5 that dotted line is meant to show that. i myself feel the majority of the british all came over the
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bridge and they actually ran over their own dead and dying. [ inaudible ] >> okay. [ laughter ] >> so we can get to -- thank you. get to as many questions as possible. let him answer and then move to a question over here. anybody want to add anything else to the cottage city? all right. let's go to a question right here. >> you spoke men, the british officers i guess cavalry officers who were not present at north point because they had been wounded and at least some of the wounded soldiers, british wounded, were left in houses in bladensburg. some i think in upper marlboro. what eventually happened to the british soldiers and officers who had been wounded and left to
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convalesce in american homes. >> go on, steve. >> you know, it's question because they end up playing a critical role, first of all, in the writing of the star spangled banner because these officers including the very brave colonel thornton who really led the charge both against -- across the bridge and then against barney's guns is severely wounded and he is given very good care here in bladensburg by the americans. and when francis scott key goes on his mission to try to negotiate the freedom for dr. beans, he has all these great arguments that the americans have come up to for why dr. beans should be released but what convinces general ross are these letters that key has brought with him from british brought withy including colonel thornton attesting to this wonderful care they're getting from the americans and on that
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basis alone key -- ross decides to free dr. beans so this plays a key role in the whole mission of the star spangled banner. thornton himself, there's an exchange in october and thornton nearly killed at bladensburg plays a critical role down in new orleans. he's released in the chesapeake bay exchange. he joins the attack on new orleans and he almost turns around that attack for the british. he leads the attack on the opposite bank of the@l mississi that goes pretty well for the british but then is called off because they have suffered too much on the other g=#xside, so remarkable. thornton despite his wounds ends up playing a big role in new orleans. >> next question. thank you. anybody? yes, right here. in front. yes, sir? we'll get the mike to you. >> president madison is there and i heard people talk about he looks like he was there almost for the entire battle of
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bladensburg until barney gets wounded and then he leaves. question is, do we have any coburn or ross know that madison was on the battlefield and do affect on anything at á,qall? >> no. >> i don't think so, no, no. they must have thought it damned unlikely that the president would be there, particularly madison. little tiny chap like that. i mean, just extraordinary, isn't it? i don't think the british did know. of course, madison himself didn't know the brits were so close. one of the extraordinary stories about this whole campaign. >> some officers claimed they saw madison fleeing the battlefield so i think it was a belated recognition like the president was here, we could have captured him. so i think it was more disappointment after the fact. >> madison is, extraordinary thing about madison is appointed
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two men, armstrong the war secretary and winder the general in charge, it was his fault that these two lunatics -- sorry -- these two severely failed characters were in charge of the american defense of their capitol. it was a tragedy. a tragedy for america. and it was largely there for the humiliation except, of course, you must allow for monroe who turns up at the last moment and changes the deployment of the troops but madison asked armstrong and winder just at that moment before the battle when he was on the battlefield, he said, winder, what do you think about the situation here? probably not very happy about what he saw. winder said, look, it's too late. we have to fight like we are. he said to armstrong, the war secretary, what do you think about it? armstrong said, i have no opinion. >> all right. >> correct? >> we have time for one last question. the gentleman right here. th -- yes, sir. >> there's theory i have read about it being kind of a diversion to take pressure abay from what was happening on the north, the canadian border,
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especially platsburg, provost was going to cut off the new england states and basicallyv that a separate country or use that as a bargaining chip but the whole thing and the chesapeake wasn't the main story. it was just a diversion. could you speak to that? >> i would n't call it a diversion. when you consider that the united states declared war on england, it was in february of 1813 that the british put a blockade at the mouth of the chesapeake bay. that's very early in the war. /ññ&áá$u$ey do that? well, they were trying to bring an economic as well as a military war to the seat of american government. after all, it's that -- that's where the politicians were that dared to declare war against them and came up into the bay and essentially occupied the bay and part of the reason for doing that was not just to destroy the economy of this region but hopefully to draw some of the american forces that otherwise might be up on what we could
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call the northern border and essentially that did not happen. they did harm the economy significantly but they were not really successful in bringing american troops from the northern border. >> this will be the last response. >> yeah, our historian counterparts up in canada believed that what happened here in the chesapeake was just a sideshow and that the main action happened up )=[eñ canada which is certainly a point of view and they were fighting for their survival to the canadians it was the great patriotic;( ñ . and for the most part, they're correct that in 1813 it was just raids around the chesapeake bay with the intent of trying to get armstrongqhke to move troops to for the defense of the capitol. but i would argue that when ross landed with his 4,000 troops and disobeyed orders and went ahead and attacked washington, and you capture the capitol of


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